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Money management, pension fund executives blast Texas ‘bathroom bill’

Texas state capitol, Austin
Texas state capitol, Austin

A group of public retirement plan and money management leaders responsible for $11 trillion in assets under management warned Tuesday that a “bathroom bill” now before the Texas Legislature endorses discrimination, would damage the state’s reputation and could harm the state’s economy.

If enacted, the bill would discriminate against transgender people, said New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, adding that investments in Texas companies — including those by the New York City Retirement Systems — would suffer. Mr. Stringer is the fiduciary for the five pension funds within the $170.6 billion retirement system.

Mr. Stringer made his comments at a news conference in which he and Matthew Patsky, CEO of Trillium Asset Management, publicized a letter to top Texas government officials from 40 money managers and public retirement plan executives condemning Senate Bill 6, introduced in the state Senate in January.

The bill requires transgender people to use bathrooms in public schools, state agencies and political subdivisions based on “biological sex.” It would override local laws that allow transgender people to use bathrooms that correspond to their gender identity. The bill establishes civil and criminal penalties for these education and government entities. The Senate hasn’t voted on the bill yet.

The bill’s supporters say the proposal was offered to protect public safety.

“Discriminatory legislation such as SB6 is bad for Texas businesses and investors in those businesses,” said the letter opposing the bill. “Such discriminatory legislation ultimately hampers the ability of our portfolio companies operating in Texas to offer inclusive and productive workplaces to attract and retain the best current and potential employees.”

Among the signers were executives from BlackRock (BLK), AllianceBernstein (AB), John Hancock Investments, T. Rowe Price, State Street Global Advisors and Natixis Asset Management. Signers representing public retirement plans include Thomas DiNapoli, the New York state Comptroller and sole trustee of the $186 billion New York State Common Retirement Fund; Denise Nappier, Connecticut treasurer and principal fiduciary of the $30.1 billion Connecticut Retirement Plans & Trust Funds; Anne Simpson, investment director, sustainability, of the $311.7 billion California Public Employees’ Retirement System; Anne Sheehan, director of corporate governance for the $196.4 billion California State Teachers’ Retirement System; and Betty Yee, California controller, who is a member of the CalPERS and CaSTRS boards.

The letter was sent to Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Joe Straus.